Read Leviticus 16:16, 30. What is purged on the Day of Atonement?
Throughout the year all kinds of sins and ritual impurities were transferred to the sanctuary. With the Day of Atonement comes the time for their removal. There are three main parts to the Day of Atonement:
1. The purification offering for the priest. The high priest slaughtered a bull for his sins, making sure that he (the priest) would be clean when entering the sanctuary and performing the ritual to cleanse it.
2. The purification offering of the goat “for the Lord” (Lev. 16:8, NKJV). During the year, the purification offerings “brought” all the sins of the Israelites into the sanctuary. The Day of Atonement was the time to remove these sins from the sanctuary; this process was done through the blood of the goat “for the Lord.”
3. The elimination ritual with the live goat for Azazel. God wanted to get the sins of His people away from the sanctuary and the camp. Therefore, another live goat was sent out into the desert.
Read Leviticus 16:15. What happened to this goat, and what did it symbolize?
Because there was neither confession of sin nor laying on of hands involved with the goat for the Lord, its blood was not a carrier of sin. Thus, it did not defile but, rather, it cleansed. The effect is clearly described in verses 16 and 20. The high priest made atonement with the blood of the Lord’s goat, cleansing the entire sanctuary. The same procedure also effected the purification of the people so that, when the sanctuary was cleansed from all the people’s sins, the people themselves were cleansed too. In this sense the Day of Atonement was unique, for only on this day were both the sanctuary and the people cleansed.
The Day of Atonement was the second stage of a two-phase atonement. In the first phase, during the year, the Israelites were forgiven. Their sins were not blotted out but were entrusted to God Himself, who promised to deal with them. The second phase did not have much to do with forgiveness; the people were already forgiven. In fact, the verb “forgive” does not occur at all in Leviticus 16 or in Leviticus 23:27-32. What this shows us is that the entire plan of salvation deals with more than just the forgiveness of our sins, a point that makes even more sense when understood in the wider context of The Great Controversy.